Barely two days after its official announcement of the very first case of Covid-19, North Korea already deplores 21 additional deaths, bringing the total to 27. “The number of people with fever between the end of April and May 13 is higher than 524,440,” the state news agency KCNA said.

Leader Kim Jon Un has urgently activated a quarantine system to stem the spread of the disease among the 25 million inhabitants, none of whom are vaccinated against the coronavirus. The country had so far not reported any confirmed cases of Covid-19 to the WHO.

One of the worst healthcare systems in the world

The state news agency reports that for Friday alone, “more than 174,440 people presented with fever”. However, it does not specify whether these new cases and these deaths have all tested positive for Covid-19. Experts say the country lacks the capacity to massively test its population. “The actual number of Covid cases could be higher (…) due to many asymptomatic cases,” said Cheong Seong-chang, North Korea specialist at the Sejong Institute.

This Saturday, a second meeting of the political bureau was held, during which leader Kim acknowledged that the epidemic has caused “a great upheaval” in the country. “The language he uses suggests that the situation in North Korea will get worse before it gets better,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

The meeting of the country’s top officials focused on the distribution of medicine and other ways to “minimize loss of life”, according to KCNA. He promised in particular a “rapid distribution of emergency drugs” in order to “minimize the human losses”. The country’s health system, one of the worst in the world, is failing and lacks essential drugs and equipment, experts warn. Kim Jon Un has announced that he will adopt the Chinese model in the fight against the coronavirus.

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